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Airline sued for asking men to change clothes before boarding

Passengers charge U.S. Airways with discrimination.

By Rich_Maloof Apr 17, 2013 4:56PM

Two young African American men boarding a U.S. Airways flight were allegedly denied access to their seats until they changed out of casual attire. An airline employee at the gate told the two men they couldn’t sit in first class wearing hoodies and jeans, New York Daily News reports, and were instructed to remove their baseball caps, put on button-up shirts and nicer shoes and change from jeans into slacks.

Photo: Passengers asked to change clothes for first class on U.S. Airlines / Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images Miles and MacCraig Warren, brothers traveling from Denver to Los Angeles on their way home from a funeral in August, were “humiliated” but wanted no trouble. They returned to the gate in the required clothes only to find two other young men — one Caucasian, one Filipino — boarding first class dressed in hoodies and sneakers.

The Warrens filed a lawsuit in federal court this week charging the airline with discrimination and causing emotional distress. The brothers have said they’re not after money but that “an apology would be nice.”

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U.S. Airways issued a statement saying it’s taking the allegation seriously and that “we welcome customers of all ethnicities and backgrounds and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” Their defense may hinge on the fact that the Warrens obtained their first-class tickets through a friend employed by U.S. Airways who provided them with a “buddy pass” — which, an airline representative said, would require the men to dress according to company guidelines for traveling employees. But that policy may not have been made clear to Miles and MacCraig before they were at the gate.

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The episode echoes another airline-attire incident we related last summer (along with other things that get people kicked off airplanes), though in that case a Spirit Airlines crew spirited a passenger off a flight when he became verbally abusive after being asked to lift up his sagging pants.

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Back in the Golden Age of air travel, passengers dressed in business attire to fly. Today, people travel in the same everyday duds they wear to Wal-Mart. Not a great look on some, but maybe if the airlines didn’t treat us like we were in a bus station, we wouldn’t dress like it. Whatever the airplane crew’s perspective on proper attire may be, it should match passenger to passenger — regardless of where he or she is sitting, how much was paid for the ticket or whether a flight attendant is afraid of black people.

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Photo: U.S. Airlines planes / Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Apr 25, 2013 3:44PM

Poorly written and researched story.  Try to do better in the future.

Apr 24, 2013 6:56PM
BTW, USAirways is NOT being picky.  EVERY airline sets an expectation of behavior and dress for their non-revenue travelers and many expect it in coach as well as first class, as well they should.  I worked for 2 airlines (neither were USAirways) and their dress standards were the same for the WHOLE cabin, not just F/C.
Apr 24, 2013 6:53PM

The employee who gave them their passes is probably going to get fired.  These guys need to issue a HUGE public apology.  I'm glad they're not my "friends"

UNBELIEVABLE!  As one of my instructors in flight attendant training said, (paraphrased after 20+ years) "You are getting PAID for your time and you are flying for FREE.  If (insert name of airline here) asks you to wear a giant bunny suit on the airplane, that's what you wear.  Express yourself on your own time" 

This was in regards to uniform regulations, but non-rev travel attire is the same thing.  You are flying for FREE!!! 

Hey!  Would you put on a big yellow T-Shirt that says, "I LOVE USAirways" in exchange for a free ticket in First Class? Yes?  They how about just donning business attire and a respectful, grateful attitude? 

Apr 24, 2013 12:57AM
I use to fly on a buddy pass and was always told to not wear jeans etc for first class. No problem there, I get it. 

But I will say that those gate agents could be real jerks to the "non-revenue" passengers. To the airlines: You will find that treating people respectfully goes a very long way. People can understand "No."  But, it's usually about the message delivery. 
Apr 23, 2013 8:34AM

I've been in the Travel Industry for over 28+ years.  Anytime we fly on passes or reduced rate tickets or on "Buddy Passes" (which all are an extended PRIVLEGE!).   We always had to dress like you were representing the airline you were flying (their dress code).    There's nothing wrong with that.  There friend is the one to blame here not the airline.   Quit wasting the courts time.  It wasn't discrimination.  It was a lack of communication from your friend. 

Apr 23, 2013 2:58AM
Frivolous lawsuit!  To use the buddy pass, they needed to abide by the rules. Sorry that they were hassled, especially since they had attended a funeral.
Apr 22, 2013 7:33PM
"or whether a stewardess is afraid of black people"

What about a journalist who is too ignorant and race baiting to drop the use of "stewardess" - it's been the gender neutral flight attendant for about 50 years now.
Apr 21, 2013 1:25AM
I hope their friend that got them the buddy passes did not lose his/her job. Flying nonrev on a buddy pass is a privilege, not a right and this could have gotten their friend terminated because they did not comply. They were lucky they were given the option to change, many times you would not have been allowed to board the airplane at all and not given the option to change. They would have been told they could not fly until they changed into appropriate nonrev clothing. They were not singled out because of race. If they wanted to fly into their casual clothing then they should have paid for tickets.  It is quite possible the other two were passengers that paid for their ticket or they were riding on travel club reward type tickets. It is a shame they made a stink out the good deed their friend tried to do by helping them get to the funeral. Gee whiz - it isn't always about race. If I buy a ticket I can wear whatever I want within reason. If I fly on an employee pass, I have to follow the airline's dress code, as would my family or a friend on a buddy pass. If I fly on a buddy pass for a different airline, many of them require a suit, or dress/skirt and dress shoes. 
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